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Her Career: Fatima Zaidi, VP of Business Development for 88 Creative

Fatima Zaidi has over nine years of experience in business development, marketing, and strategy. She was named one of marketing magazines top 30 under 30 marketers and brand developers for 2016, Flare‘s Top 100 Canadian Women, and top 3 for the Toronto Board of Trade Young Excellence Awards. Next week she will be hosting a Sales Master Class at RED Academy (462 Wellington St W #101). In it, she’ll take you through the ten steps required to snag an opportunity and convert it into a case won.

We caught up with her this week.

SDTC: Walk us through your education/career trajectory. When did you know that you wanted to work in sales?

I was born and raised in the Middle East to forward-thinking Pakistani parents who invested their life savings into giving their children a world-class education. I feel incredibly lucky for my diverse cultural background, which, among countless other benefits, resulted in my growing up able to speak four languages (Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and English). In 2007, I moved to Canada to study Business because I believed then, and still do, that Canada is a country of equality and opportunity where individuals are rewarded for their hard work and merit, regardless of gender, age, class, religious affiliation, social standing or orientation.

After graduation, I worked in the corporate industry for a while. While I enjoyed the majority of my work there, the “red tape” eventually got to me. I knew that I would only really be able to develop my muscles and exercise my judgement to the extent that I wanted if I actively sought more hands-on business experience. It was a scary move, despite knowing that I had the natural ability to make the transition, but I eventually made the leap into the start-up world.

I’m happy to say that it ended up being the best decision I could ever have made, on both a personal and professional level. I’ve never looked back! I joined the retail company Rent frock Repeat (who were featured on Season 7 of the hit CBC show Dragons’ Den) as a Business Development Manager in 2014 before being promoted a year later to Director where I became responsible for the overall management of all strategic business development, marketing, and customer relationship activities nationwide.

Over the course of my career, I’ve accumulated over ten years of experience in Business Development/Sales, Marketing and Strategy. Essentially, I’m an expert in hacking outbound sales and this, along with my know-how in negotiating effective partnerships, led to my current role as VP of Business Development for Eighty-Eight, a Toronto-based creative communications agency.

As with most other functions, the main objective in Business Development is to drive increased revenue so as to achieve an ambitious growth schedule. Basically, I work at “getting stuff done!” I’m also a firm believer in pursuing personal development outside of my main career path, so I enjoy several side hustles, including working as a commentator for Global News and BNN, chair for the DYPB conference (the largest personal branding conference in North America), and a content writer for publications like The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post, and BetaKit.

I think I’ve always been a salesperson at heart. I’m inspired by making money! I know that may sound shocking and shallow to some, but at the end of the day, I’m a salesperson. If that isn’t your answer as a sales professional, then I recommend finding a new calling! To clarify, I’m not only motivated by making money for myself but also in a large part by contributing to a company’s bottom line. That’s another reason why I love working at startups, because you can see the fruits of your labour almost immediately.

What would surprise most people about the work you do?

It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Some days you’re on top of the world, and other days you’ll hit rock bottom. As a salesperson, you have to learn to manage these emotions and compartmentalize them.

Walk us through a typical day in your life, from getting up until going to bed?

I’m ashamed to admit it, but the last thing I do before I sleep and the first thing I do when I wake up is grab my iPhone and check my emails! I really like to immediately get on top of any urgent stuff that’s cropped up during the night. I then proceed to get dressed in under fifteen minutes and skip breakfast in exchange for a skim milk latte at my favourite local cafe, Le Gourmand, before heading into the office.

A day of work never looks the same for me. It can start with client meetings, speaking at events, writing articles, and focusing on sales. I spend a lot of evenings teaching sales classes at local tech schools like Red Academy. In my case, I’m lucky enough to have truly found my calling. I wake up every day and can’t wait to get to work and sell, sell, sell!

What separates a good salesperson from a great one?

Good salespeople never fear rejection and have the ability to keep putting themselves out there. There are so many doors closed in our face every day, making it hard to seek opportunities over and over again. Don’t take this rejection personally. You will always get more no’s than a yes. This is standard across the board unless you’re the Richard Bransons of the world. Remember that getting ducks in a row takes more work than simply commanding those ducks to line up. You have to give yourself a sense of purpose and an end goal and then work persistently to achieve it with focus. Great salespeople have figured this out!

Also, the average salesperson, whether you’re at an agency or an individual salesperson, reaches out because they have been told that they have an obligation to do so; however, the top 10% of salespeople—those who are full of hustle, who are the true professionals—will call their prospects with a purpose.

What is the biggest mistake people tend to make when marketing their product/services?

Focusing on the features and benefits rather than the customers’/consumers’ pain points! You have to address the fundamental question: How are you solving their problem?

What can we expect from your master class next week?

“Sales hacking” refers to any productivity shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase efficiency, allowing salespeople to achieve more in less time and make more revenue for their company and themselves. The goal of outbound sales hacking is to get the best possible result in the shortest amount of time. In next week’s master class at RED Academy Toronto, I will cover how to hack outbound sales and effectively reach prospective clients. All are welcome!

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